Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Campus safety officials preach security and awareness in wake of burglaries

This article is part of a three-part series of stories to appear of DU Today from Sept. 20–22. Check DU Today for each day’s installments.

Story 1: Lessons from neighborhood burglaries are still challenge a year later

Story 2: Wide net, good luck were key ingredients in catching University-area burglar

Story 3: Campus safety officials preach security and awareness in wake of burglaries

If Campus Safety Director Don Enloe had his way, every computer on campus would be loaded with security software to protect it against theft.

Laptops in particular would have software that could disable a stolen computer, flash warnings such as: “This computer has been reported stolen,” or allow remote deletion of sensitive data, then broadcast signals so police can recover the machine.

Stuff of the future? Enloe’s talking today. This term. A full-frontal tactic for protecting as many of the estimated 40,000 computers on campus as possible. Especially laptops, he says, which the experience of the Tarius Simes’ burglaries made clear can be a criminal’s favorite target.

For nearly a year, Enloe reminds, Simes preyed on young people in the area near the University because, in part, the computers he found weren’t protected by tracking software. Had they been? Enloe can only guess. But he’s certain enough of the answer that this fall DU Campus Safety will be pushing hard to persuade anyone with a laptop to invest in tracking software. He’s also asking the University to consider it for DU-owned computers as well, and the idea is under review.

“We want to put the products out there for students,” Enloe says. “They can put it on their computer if they want to and if they don’t, they won’t.”

Some people, he points out, are reluctant, citing privacy concerns. Enloe and others in law enforcement say those fears are exaggerated.

DU Campus Safety Sgt. Steve Banet shares the University's safety and security measures with DU sophomore Courtney Muchnick, an international business major from Denver. Photo: Nathan Solheim

“We have caught people who took laptops because the moment they were turned on, it sent a beacon to police,” says Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey (JD ’83), an occasional lecturer at the Sturm College of Law. To him, the benefits of being able to locate a stolen computer and prevent identity theft outweigh other concerns.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Rebekah Melnick, (JD ’04) one of Morrissey’s deputies, agrees.

“With the perks of technology come downsides. I’d rather be secure and take precautions,” says the prosecutor who pushed to get Simes sentenced to 60 years in state prison. 

Educating the campus

In the meantime, Enloe and others at Campus Safety are recommending that computer owners take a look at vendors such as PC PhoneHome or LoJack for Laptops. They’ll also be weaving the lessons of the burglaries into public speeches to campus groups, freshmen orientations, and crime-prevention campaigns on campus and in the community.

The job won’t be easy, he says. Students listen but don’t always learn. “It’s that bulletproof mentality. It happens with all kinds of things that college-age people get into trouble with — drinking, drugs, sexual assault. They think it won’t happen to them.”

But Enloe still tries. “You’re teaching an 18-year-old sitting in freshman orientation and all they’re thinking about is where do I live, where do I eat and where are the parties.”

The bulletproof mentality is alive off campus, too. Oftentimes, students share rental properties as if they were still on campus, forgetting that living in a neighborhood means connecting with people who are older, aren’t students and live in the area year-round. Communication can easily fail, one fiftysomething resident says, with the result a kind of neighborhood arm-wrestling. Students come home from the bars at 2:30 a.m., she says, and bang doors and blare music. So neighbors get up at 7 a.m. and run the lawnmower.

Tensions build and negotiating peace gets harder.

Another neighbor who is completing a DU master’s program isn’t hopeful. “I don’t think people listen — especially undergraduates. I was an idiot when I was 18.”

Don Enloe

DU Campus Safety Director Don Enloe says all students should take precautions to protect their belongings and their safety. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Today, though, she’s much more careful as a result of harsh facts that the long struggle to catch Simes taught the community: that bad guys can easily blend in; that having roommates or males in the house isn’t always a deterrent; that a home can be victimized more than once; that not watching out for others makes a neighborhood vulnerable; that it takes a long time and a lot of work to catch a thief; and that Simes isn’t the only serial criminal in the sea.  

Which is why campus safety officials and others are so keen on students doing what it takes to avoid becoming a victim.

“Don’t buy a shotgun,” says Det. Jeff Hart, the lead robbery detective who cracked the case. “Fix the door; fix the window. Solve the problems that make you an easier victim.”

That includes recording the serial numbers of the property you own and think about getting tracking software for your laptop, Enloe says. “When you figure people have a thousand-dollar laptop and all their class work and research work on the computer, a $20 or $30 investment is pretty cheap,” he reminds.

“Overall this is a very safe campus and a very safe neighborhood,” Enloe says, which Hart agrees with. “You don’t want people afraid to go outside after dark. But at the same time you want them to be aware, cognizant.

“There may be parts of this country where people still don’t lock their front doors. But those places are few and far between.”

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Ed. Note: Denver City Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz praised this series in a recent committee meeting.


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